Even when it seemed as if he was fighting a battle that was lost midway, not once could you count Royal Challengers Bangalore out of the game because there was one individual on those 22-yards who was playing a game of his own. The mastermind in AB was working out bowlers he could target; chiseling down slowly on the target like a sculptor was in the process of producing a masterpiece. And, that he did, as he proved to be RCB’s chief architect in a thrilling 4-wicket win against the Gujarat Lions to seal a place in the final of the IPL for the third time in nine years.
The moment the winning runs were hit, AB was mobbed. AB was cheered by thirty five thousand people at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, who were as equal a part of the run-chase that would be etched in their minds for a long time to come. From being almost ousted from the competition, to finishing in the top two, to securing a place in the final, RCB had come a long way. Here’s the man of the moment, AB de Villiers, sharing his thoughts with iplt20.com on a night that he will remember for a long time.
With half a side down for 29, did you ever imagine you would end up on the winning side?
To be honest with you, I am just humbled. I didn’t think it was possible to win from there when I started batting and when we were five or six down. I thought ‘Oh, we are in trouble,’ and it was a big mountain to climb from there on. Dhawal Kulkarni bowled a fantastic spell. He almost won the game for them, but it is never over until the last ball is bowled.
I tried to break it down into small targets. I wanted to focus on each ball and enjoy it even though we were down and out. I always had a bit of belief in the back of my mind. Such games just tell you that you are never out of the game. It is a funny old game - cricket. I am so delighted to have an impact in us crossing the line tonight. We played a really good game of cricket.
You’ve scored a century; you have been in outstanding form throughout this tournament along with Virat Kohli. But where would you put this knock on your batting charts this season?
This is a million times better than any hundred I have scored. I have said it so many times before that I don’t look at stats. I don’t look at hundreds or two hundreds or all of that nonsense. I just want to cross the line for the boys. Tonight was a prime example of that. I have failed so many times in the past in pressure situations like that, but tonight my experience helped me. The amazing support here in M Chinnaswamy Stadium helped me to cross that line. Let’s not forget about Iqbal Abdullah who played really well there. Our bowlers too performed really well tonight.
You spoke about Iqbal Abdullah, how was it batting alongside a partner who is not very used to batting under such pressure situations?
It doesn’t really matter who you bat with. It is really important to start a partnership and sort of understand each other. The minute he walked to the crease, I could just see the calmness about him. His eyes were open; he understood what I was telling and he played a fantastic knock and supported me well. He has been in pressure situations before. I don’t follow a lot of domestic cricket in India but I am pretty sure that he is one of those guys who will always stick it out there till the end for the team. He straightaway hit me as a guy, as one of those characters.
During your innings, when was that moment when you actually decided to cut loose?
It was in that Dwayne Smith over in the 15th. Virat sent a message out saying there is a bit of bad weather around and it was probably the best time to try and get up with the run-rate again. So, I decided to have a go in that over to see where it takes us. That got us going so well and the crowd got behind us. It just didn’t stop from there. We always believed we could get to the target and that is the kind of character we have in the side. We never gave up. But it looked highly unlikely to make the knockouts, never mind the final. But here we are, just humbled and very happy and hopefully we can entertain the crowd on Sunday.
You have had such a long association with Royal Challengers Bangalore. What does this spot in the final mean to you?
It means the world to me. So many years, people have been saying that we have underperformed, but I always felt that we had a really good team and a good team spirit and character in the side. Unfortunately it never went our way. We would stumble in the wrong time and this year we probably got it right. We stumbled in the beginning but we are on a good rhythm now. I am just happy to give it back to the franchise that has looked after me really well. It is the best franchise for me, no doubt about it.